Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism advocacy and research organization, recognized Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann at the annual Autism Law Summit today for his efforts to increase autism awareness and insurance coverage for autism in Mississippi.
Secretary Hosemann and his wife, Lynn, who has also been a zealous advocate for children diagnosed with autism, were in attendance to accept the organization’s 2018 Executive Champion Award.
“This award recognizes significant public service on the part of an executive official in government,” said Lorri Unumb, Vice President of State Government Affairs for Autism Speaks. “Secretary Hosemann’s admirable commitment to this cause has been apparent since I met him a couple of years ago. We are thankful for his efforts in Mississippi.”
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, and other unique strengths and differences.
Past winners of the Autism Speaks’ Executive Award include Ohio Governor John Kasich, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
“Our children are our most valuable asset, and the early years are the most critical. We have to make sure all children and their parents have access to treatment and diagnostic services as soon as possible to give them the best chance for a fulfilling life,” Secretary Hosemann said. “We could not have gotten this far without strong partnerships with Representative Steve Massengill, Senator Rita Parks, and others, and I thank them for their commitment and share this award with them.”
Mississippi has seen the following developments in autism awareness and treatment in recent years:
- In 2015, Secretary Hosemann proposed and the Mississippi Legislature—led by Senator Parks and Representative Massengill—enacted House Bill 885, which required private insurers to cover treatment for autism and other developmental disorders, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy), to age 8. The bill also created the Mississippi Autism Board, which was housed at the Secretary of State’s Office and licenses professionals to practice ABA therapy in the State.
- In early 2017, Secretary Hosemann, the Mississippi Autism Board, and other clinics and relevant agencies partnered with Autism Speaks to hold its first major coordinated awareness event, an ABA Therapy/Autism Capitol Day. This is now an annual event in Mississippi.
- In spring/summer 2017, Secretary Hosemann addressed the need for more registered behavior technicians and other ABA therapy professionals with the Mississippi Community College Board. The Secretary of State’s Office worked with Holmes Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi to create an online RBT course for parents, teachers, and students in the state. This ground-breaking class is the first of its kind in the United States. The first course was held in March 2018, and Holmes Community College plans to offer the class in fall 2018 and in 2019.
- In early 2018, Secretary Hosemann partnered with Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney to negotiate an agreement with the State’s three largest private insurers to lift the age cap at no additional cost for parents for coverage for treatment of autism and other development disorders. The agreement covered 90 percent of all individuals on the spectrum; other insurers did not have an age cap.
“Before Secretary Hosemann joined our cause, the insurance bill failed to pass every year,” said Representative Massengill (R-Hickory Flat), who authored House Bill 885. “By partnering together, we were able to pass watershed legislation which will make so many Mississippians’ lives better.”
Senator Parks (R-Corinth), who authored the Senate counterpart to House Bill 885, agreed.
“Mississippi has become a leader in the autism arena,” Senator Parks said. “I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far, and look forward to doing even more for some of our most vulnerable citizens in the future.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann Press Release